When Kara Goucher, 33, of Portland, Oregon, competed in her first Olympic Games in 2008, she raced on the track, finishing in the top 10 in the 5,000 meters and 10,000m. This August (2012), she'll head to London with the world's best to battle for a medal in the marathon.
Since her stunning debut at the 26.2-mile distance at the 2008 ING New York City Marathon, the Oregon Track Club Elite member has finished among the top five twice at the Boston Marathon. She also competed at the world championships in the marathon.
She chases her 21-month-old son, Colt, around the house, and is no stranger to logging 120-mile training weeks. This year, training alongside teammate Shalane Flanagan—winner of the 2012 Olympic trials marathon and runner-up in her first attempt at 26.2—accelerated Goucher's post-baby return to fitness.
While mirroring Goucher's high-mileage training is ill-advised for most, here are three things you can learn from her.
Train Hard to Gain Confidence for Race Day
Notorious for her hard work, Goucher has completed hill repeats wearing a weighted vest; she jogged five miles and lifted weights the day Colt was born. "I get confidence from my workouts," Goucher says. "I like to see a progression; I like to look back in my log book and see big workouts that I accomplished. I get confidence from my training more than anything else."
Balance Speed and Volume to Realize Your Marathon Potential
"I've learned that the marathon is the full 26.2 miles," Goucher says. "In the past, I always kept my speed up, but didn't do enough mileage. By the 20-mile mark I was just holding on—not strong enough to finish it out. Now I've completely changed my training to be ready to race the full 26.2."
You Have to Want It
It's a challenge to prepare for a personal best while balancing work, family and life, even for full-time pro Goucher, who often trains twice a day. "It can be difficult to get your friends to understand why you can't go out just for this one Friday night," Goucher empathizes. "Of course, you have to train again Saturday morning. Day in, day out, there are no easy days."
Recreational runners—even those who are extremely competitive—shouldn't need to sacrifice nights out with friends and rest days in order to achieve their marathon goals. But, they can learn a lot from Goucher's dedication.
"I absolutely love my job," Goucher continues. "I actually feel super lucky. Yes, I train very hard, but I get the opportunity to see who I can really be. It's an amazing, thrilling life, and I love doing it."
Sign up for your next marathon.